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19.10.2018 | Original Article Open Access

Rib fixation versus non-operative treatment for flail chest and multiple rib fractures after blunt thoracic trauma: a multicenter cohort study

Zeitschrift:
European Journal of Trauma and Emergency Surgery
Autoren:
Reinier B. Beks, David Reetz, Mirjam B. de Jong, Rolf H. H. Groenwold, Falco Hietbrink, Michael J. R. Edwards, Luke P. H. Leenen, Roderick Marijn Houwert, Jan Paul M. Frölke
Wichtige Hinweise
Reinier B. Beks and David Reetz have dual first authorship.

Abstract

Background

Over the years, a trend has evolved towards operative treatment of flail chest although evidence is limited. Furthermore, little is known about operative treatment for patients with multiple rib fractures without a flail chest. The aim of this study was to compare rib fixation based on a clinical treatment algorithm with nonoperative treatment for both patients with a flail chest or multiple rib fractures.

Methods

All patients with ≥ 3 rib fractures admitted to one of the two contributing hospitals between January 2014 and January 2017 were retrospectively included in this multicenter cohort study. One hospital treated all patients nonoperatively and the other hospital treated patients with rib fixation according to a clinical treatment algorithm. Primary outcome measures were intensive care length of stay and hospital length of stay for patients with a flail chest and patients with multiple rib fractures, respectively. To control for potential confounding, propensity score matching was applied.

Results

A total of 332 patients were treated according to protocol and available for analysis. The mean age was 56 (SD 17) years old and 257 (77%) patients were male. The overall mean Injury Severity Score was 23 (SD 11) and the average number of rib fractures was 8 (SD 4). There were 92 patients with a flail chest, 37 (40%) had rib fixation and 55 (60%) had non-operative treatment. There were 240 patients with multiple rib fractures, 28 (12%) had rib fixation and 212 (88%) had non-operative treatment. For both patient groups, after propensity score matching, rib fixation was not associated with intensive care unit length of stay (for flail chest patients) nor with hospital length of stay (for multiple rib fracture patients), nor with the secondary outcome measures.

Conclusion

No advantage could be demonstrated for operative fixation of rib fractures. Future studies are needed before rib fixation is embedded or abandoned in clinical practice.

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